BARRIE, ON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased with the Crown prosecutor agreeing to stay charges against pastor Michael Thiessen of Grace Baptist Church. Mr. Thiessen had been charged in 2021 for allegedly violating the Reopening Ontario Act. A trial for Mr. Thiessen had been scheduled for September 14, 2024, but now this trial will not be proceeding.
On the morning of Sunday, April 25, 2021, a member of the Ontario Provincial Police had been conducting surveillance on Grace Baptist Church. The surveillance was in response to a complaint about the Church exceeding the capacity limits imposed under the Reopening Ontario Act. Two church services occurred that morning. Following the first service, police officers stopped most vehicles leaving the parking lot, detaining motorists, and warning them of the potential fines they faced if convicted under the Reopening Ontario Act. Following the second church service, Mr. Thiessen was also detained in a vehicle stop. The officer informed Mr. Thiessen of the complaint against the church and that he would be charged with violating the Reopening Ontario Act.
The Justice Centre provided legal representation for Mr. Thiessen. Legal counsel to Mr. Thiessen drafted a motion to exclude evidence obtained in violation of Section 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay. Legal counsel argued that there was no valid reason to delay informing Mr. Thiessen of his Section 10(b) rights. For example, when investigating impaired driving and Highway Traffic Act offences, police are not required to immediately inform motorists of their rights. However, legal counsel argued that Mr. Thiessen should have immediately been informed of his right to counsel upon being detained by the police officer.
“We are pleased that taxpayer-funded resources will no longer be devoted to this prosecution, which had been carried on pursuant to unscientific laws that were unjustified violations of our Charter rights and freedoms,” stated John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre.